YUMI – Growing international community in York

Community gardening is about growing, together. One project in York is bringing together people from a range of cultural backgrounds. This year, YUMI (York Unifying Multicultural Initiative) will show off the work they do at a one day festival in the city centre.

Working towards spring with the same vigour and optimism that all gardeners are accustomed to, the international community garden group are planning for what is probably the biggest project they have taken on yet.

York seems a quite welcoming city to people from other cultures; just earlier this week, ‘York mosque countered EDL protests’.
“The BME community appears relatively small at 11%, (Joseph Rowntree Foundation, 2010), but this represents 21,800 people.” (YUMI) This stat has stuck with me, it is quite astounding when you think about it. What are we doing to help those people feel part of our country, our towns & our cities?

The initiative is about more than gardening; there is a group of cooks, sharing their respective delectable cuisines. YUMI funds food hygiene courses a couple of times a year for those involved, so then they can cook for the public and share their wonderful dishes. The gardening group tries to grow as much as possible for the cooks to use. This year though, there is a different focus.

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On 31 August YUMI are going to be holding a festival in York city centre to showcase the initiative – there will be a show garden of plants they grow in the garden, and food of a dozen cuisines provided by the cooks. Planning for a one day show garden, growing enough plants to fill the space, and formulating a way of showing them, that’s the current challenge facing the group and it’s one that they are relishing!

With such a dreary and slow start to the growing season, timescales have been squeezed. Ordinarily, planning a show garden is challenge enough, but there is the added test of growing plants from all over the world, from seed! Some plants haven’t been grown at the garden before, some are becoming reliable stalwarts, all of them are under the watchful eye of the gardeners whom keep fingers crossed that things will grow. It takes a mix of guesswork, consulting Joy Larkcom, and a healthy dose of old fashioned good luck.

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Plants are being grown in raised beds in the garden and on the allotment in pots sunk into the ground. Just before the show, the potted plants will all be unearthed and transported to the city centre before being resunk into purpose built raised beds. It’s no mean feat, but should create a wonderful, edible spectacle for thousands to see and enjoy. Among the plants being grown are pak choi, red amaranthe, beetroot, Russian cabbage, oriental cucumbers, and tomatillos.

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YUMI’s activities are helping to unify people in York from various cultures, helping to fight the feeling of isolation that is associated with being in a minority. Bringing people together and being altogether more visible.

There is the potential for many more people to be involved with the international community garden, and with that comes potential benefits for all involved – making friends, learning about international plants & food, and being part of something great. There is more to be done, as always, and I am sure that any volunteers would be welcomed with open arms.

‘Where do I sign up?’ My advice: Don’t. Just turn up. The YUMI gardening group meets every weekend 10-4 at Fulford Cross allotments. Lunch is around 1 o’clock, bring some food and be ready to share.
Sign up to the mailing list.
Follow YUMI on Twitter.
Like YUMI on Facebook.

I am hoping to start filming a short documentary of the preparations for the show garden, watch this space.

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